1. The dialogue between two contrasting voices is intended to create irony.

a. To whom do the voices belong?

b. Why is the identity of the second speaker not immediately revealed?

c. What theme gradually emerges as each of the first speaker's guesses proves false?

d. What in the first speaker's remark about "A dog's fidelity" (line 30) engenders irony?

2. Hardy here may be satirizing conventional attitudes towards death and mourning which may be seen in many Romantic poems of the nineteenth century.

a. What conventional attitudes about death does the first speaker reveal?

b. To what extent does the poem invite the reader to share or accept these attitudes?

c. How does the second speaker unconsciously undermine these conventional attitudes?

d. How do the diction and tone shift markedly in the final stanza?

e. Why has Hardy given the second speaker the final word?

f. What role does the sestet (six-line) stanza form play in the poem?

g. Explain the purpose or the effect of the ellipsis (. . . ) in line 25.

h. What would "planting rue" (line 2) signify?

3. How do rhyme scheme and meter contribute to the humorous effect of the poem?

4. Explain the euphemism involved in "you had passed the Gate" (line 16), noting why the "G" is a capital

5. How does Hardy distinguish each of the speakers?

6. Why are two lines (the second and the sixth) in each stanza indented?

7. What is implied about the nature of the surviving spouse's second marriage in line 4?

8. Aside from the context ("yesterday he went to wed") what sets the initial speaker apart as female?

9.How does the poem relate to Tennyson's In Memoriam or Christina Rossetti's "After Death" and "Song ["When I am dead"]"

Related Materials

Victorian Web Thomas Hardy Hardy's Works

Last modified 29 July 2004